Monday, February 6, 2012

Nigerian Militant Group MEND Says It Attacked Eni Pipeline

Business Week (Bloomberg)
5 February 2012

By Dulue Mbachu

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main armed group in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern region, attacked and damaged a pipeline belonging to a unit of Italy’s Eni SpA.

The pipeline carries crude to an export terminal in the coastal town of Brass, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of the oil-industry hub of Port Harcourt, said Jomo Gbomo, spokesman for the group also known as MEND. “This relatively insignificant attack is a reminder of our presence in the creeks of the Niger delta and a sign of things to come,” he said in an e-mailed statement after yesterday’s incident.

Eni lost “around 4,000” barrels per day of “equity production” from the incident, the Rome-based company said in an e-mailed statement today confirming the attack.

MEND will also attack the Nigerian investments of South African companies including MTN Group Ltd. and SacOil Holding Ltd., Gbomo said, accusing South African President Jacob Zuma of interfering “in the legitimate fight for justice” in the Niger River delta region.

Threat to Output

Attacks by MEND and other militant groups in the delta, home to Nigeria’s oil industry, cut the nation’s crude output by more than 28 percent from 2006 to 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Disruptions eased after thousands of fighters, seeking a greater share of oil revenue for the region’s inhabitants, dropped their weapons and accepted an official amnesty. MEND refuses to disarm, saying the government hasn’t met its demands for control of the delta’s oil.

“Our silence thus far has been strategic, and at the right time we will reduce Nigerian oil production to zero,” Gbomo said.

Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. crude imports. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni run joint ventures with the state oil company Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that pump more than 90 percent of the country’s crude.

Renewed violence in the oil-rich delta, which is President Goodluck Jonathan’s home region, is coming at a time the Nigerian leader is grappling with a surge of bombings and gun attacks by the Islamist Boko Haram group in the mainly Muslim north in which hundreds of people have died this year.

South African Probe

Henry Okah, a suspected MEND leader, faces trial in South Africa on terrorism charges related to car bombings on Oct. 1, 2010, that killed 12 people in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. MEND claimed responsibility for the blasts.

South Africa’s Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation said it will investigate the threat against the country’s investments in Nigeria.

“It’s a matter we’ll look into definitely; terrorism has to be rooted out,” Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, said by cell phone today. “The authorities in Nigeria have always been responsive to acts that are unlawful and will deal with this as they always have dealt with such threats.”

MTN is leaving security matters to the Nigerian and South African authorities and has no further comment, Rich Mkhondo, a spokesman for the Johannesburg-based company, said in an e- mailed response.

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